James A. Thompson
2012 Recipient of the Golden Auger Award
Dr. Jim Thompson, Associate Professor of Soil Science at West Virginia University, was the recipient of the 2012 Golden Auger Award, which is presented each year to recognize outstanding contributions to soil science in West Virginia.
Jim grew up in suburban Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In high school, Jim was interested in science, particularly chemistry. During a presentation by a college recruiter from Penn State University who was visiting his high school, the recruiter began listing fields of study that we might consider. One subject on the list was agronomy—the study of soil management and crop production. Thinking that this might be a way for him to combine his interest in science with his interest in the environment, he began to seek out additional information about agronomy. As Google had not been invented yet, Jim consulted his family’s encyclopedia. After being accepted to Penn State (as a chemistry major), he made an appointment with a faculty advisor from the College of Agriculture, and soon changed his major to agronomy.
Jim graduated from Penn State with B.S. in Agronomy in 1990, a Masters from Ohio State University in 1992, and a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in 1996. After moving around a bit—the University of Kentucky and North Carolina State University—Jim finally returned to the region in 2004, when he joined the faculty of the Division of Plant and Soil Sciences at West Virginia University.
Jim’s teaching efforts at WVU include Soil Judging, Soil Survey and Land Use, Soil Genesis and Classification, Pedology, and Applied Wetland Ecology. Jim coaches the WVU Soils Team, and in 2006, led his team to a national championship at the contest in California, where WVU also had the individual national champion. For this accomplishment, the WVU soil judging was enshrined in the West Virginia Agriculture and Forestry Hall of Fame. The WVU Soils Team has gone to the national contest every year since 2006. Since 2005, they have finished in the top five in the nation four different years. In 2012, Jim organized and hosted the National Collegiate Soils Contest at WVU.
Jim works closely with other soil scientists and conservationists in West Virginia, across the US, and around the world. Specific areas of study in soil science that interest him include soil management and land use planning, soils and landscapes, hydropedology, wetland identification and delineation, and soil spatial variability. Current efforts by Jim and his colleagues at WVU include developing techniques for enhancing soil maps via harmonization and disaggregation, and establishing ecological site inventories in the eastern U.S. starting with red spruce ecosystems to help interpret soil science information across disciplines. Jim also participates in the GlobalSoilMap project.
In 2006, the Monongahela Conservation District presented Jim with the “Conservation Educator of the Year Award”; in 2007 Jim was presented with the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Design Outstanding Teacher Award; and in 2011, Jim received the “Frank Glover Award” from the Monongahela Conservation District, and the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Design Outstanding Service Award.